Returning to Work After Baby: How Do Moms Do It?

Does every new mom freak out at the thought of leaving their baby and going back to work?

Because Stage 3C cancer was found at the time of my C-section, my planned 12-week maternity leave extended from several weeks to several months. And as much as cancer treatment sucks total ass, I have to say I've enjoyed beyond measure this extra time I've been able to spend with my daughter.

I've worked in family law for more than 20 years, and have loved (almost) every minute of it. As you can imagine, there was never a boring day at the office in this line of work. And this was no 9 to 5 job. I would typically bill 50-60 hours per week, sometimes 80+ when we were preparing for a trial, depositions, or mediation.

Many of my clients had my cell number, and I prided myself on always being available on nights and weekends (when crises tend to happen in divorce cases). Even on my honeymoon I stayed connected to the office. Until the baby came, and with her the cancer diagnosis, I don't know that I ever had a true "break" from the office in 20 years.

Pre-baby, I planned to take 8-12 weeks of maternity leave, and also assured everyone that I'd stay connected to the office and up to speed on all cases in my absence. And this was fully my intention.

Oh, how things have changed.

I wouldn't recommend cancer to anyone, but I will say that one of the unexpected bonuses of the disease has been this additional time with my daughter. I've been able to be there with her every day for the first eight months of her life, something I never dreamed I'd be able to do. I've been able to witness so many milestones first-hand. Her holding up her head, her rolling over, her sitting up, and, most recently, her crawling.

Watching that baby is my favorite activity. She's as mesmerizing as a campfire, and one of the best hangs I know. 

Now that I've gotten through cancer treatment, I'm starting to work with my office on a plan for easing back into my job. And it's creating some unexpected anxiety for me. My priorities have changed through this experience, and not just because of the cancer. As much as I love it, my job is no longer my #1 or #2 priority. And the only people to whom I want to be available 24/7 are my family.

I am also placing much more importance on my own health, something that I historically pushed to the back burner. I realize this is my only go-around in this life, and I want to make the most of it. I also want to be around to see my daughter have her own children, and to grow old with my husband. Being a workaholic is not conducive to such goals.

All of that being said, I also recognize that adult interaction is important to me, as is the reward of having a meaningful career. I also recognize the importance of my daughter having interaction with other little children, and getting the stimulation of an educational group environment. 

So ... how do I find that balance of a healthy work life and a healthy home life ... of being working mommy? I know that it involves setting and holding boundaries, something with which I've always struggled. But the stakes are higher now, and I'm much more motivated. 

I'm investigating the possibility of working part-time, and doing some of that work from home. Fortunately, I have a very supportive law firm, and folks who will do whatever they can to accommodate me in my new situation. We'll see how it goes. In the meantime, I'd love to hear your stories on how you managed going back to work after baby.

How do you do it?


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Angie Hayes

I stay home with my kids, I dont have any fancy degrees though and my husband does, so it made sense for me to just stay home and him continue to work. Now that I have been home with them for over three years, sometimes I wish I HAD A JOB!!!

nonmember avatar NYC Girl Mom

Im not going to lie...its HARD to return to work. I took 12 weeks off and had a meltdown the night before I returned (ok I had meltdowns daily that whole first week.) I promise you though, that day by day it gets a little easier. Finding the balance is tough, but it comes. I work while I am at work (I work in finance.) I used to answer my phone and emails 24/7, but those days are past. When Im home, its baby time, and after she goes to bed, its husband time. Sure there will be an occasional check, but work moved to the end of my priority list while I wasnt there. You will have to find the balance that works for you, and that takes some time. but you have to do what is best for you and best for your family. Good luck =o)

nonmember avatar Shannon

Wonderful post! Eleven years ago, I was a project leader at an aerospace company in Houston. I wasn't sure what I'd do once my baby was born. After three months of maternity leave, I realized I had fallen so in love with my little one that there was no way I was going to return to a 40, 50, sometimes 60 hour work week. (Must note that I'm totally fortunate to have the option to stay home thanks to hubby's job). But unlike you, I didn't have a part-time option. It was all or nothing, so I stayed home. (Not really sure I would have taken the part-time option even if it had been available). Well, though I have never regretted staying home with baby, I have struggled with the abrupt transition from salaried professional to stay-at-home mom. Maybe that's an ego thing, I don't know, but it still has been 'a thing' for me. So, to sum up, I think working professionally on a part-time basis would be the best of both worlds. Good luck to you! (post script: I have a very young second child now and I'm totally content to stay home with her during her infancy, but the yearnings for a professional life are sure to return in a year or two.)

nonmember avatar Em

I worked hard on my education, got a masters degree and had a (consuming) jjob I really loved. I was sure that after my daughter was born I would go back. But after I met her I just *couldn't* leave her. Having her (and her brother since then) completely shifted my world view and my priorities. I still maintain professional licensure, but I've been home for 3 years now...maybe I'll go back part time someday, but I can't imagine doing full time 50+ hours like I used to!

nonmember avatar Gaby

I'll admit, it's really hard for me to return to work. I've done it twice now, following 12 weeks of leave, and I've sobbed repeatedly both times. I'd say that having a daycare or sitter that you trust makes it slightly easier, as does calling and checking in on baby throughout the day. I work from home one day a week, and I go to daycare over my lunch hour to feed my boy, so that gives me a nice baby fix! The mornings and nights are much more hectic than I'd like, but eventually we have managed to find our routine. Good luck to you on your return. Having a supportive family AND workplace will be instrumental to your return.

jalaz77 jalaz77

It wasn't a hard decision. I have the best of both worlds, I feel. I work 3/12hr shifts a week. So I get time off to be with the kids. When my youngest starts school in a few years those days off during the week will be pretty boring though. It was never a question that I would be a FT career mother. We didn't even discuss it and I honestly do not want to be a SAHM, not what I signed up for. I love my job and love my family more. Again it isn't hard for me since I have a couple days sometimes 3 days off a week. I would feel differently if I worked 50-60 hour weeks, for sure.

nonmember avatar Stephanie

I'm in the same line of work as you, family law. I moved to a firm that is more 'virtual' so I can work from home most of the time. My babies are still in daycare, but working from home I can throw in some laundry, run errands during the day etc., things that would take time away from my kids on evenings and weekends. I do still have to do some crisis management on nights and weekends, but with email on the phone it's not too bad. Another option I may move to later, is divorce mediation. I think it would be nice to move away from the adversarial role of attorney, and it's much more 9-5. You'll find yourself more affected by your cases where children are involved, but I think clients knowing your a parent too gives them more confidence in the fact that you 'get it', that kids are more important than the money issues. Good luck!

nonmember avatar Jody

What fun to have *normal* problems. My son was so social, at 12 weeks he was happiest in a stimulated environment. I chose a home daycare with a woman with similar values to mine. Now my son is all the better for having a mom and a daycare mom.

Stacey. Stacey.

Easy....it was go back to work fulltime after 4 weeks or become homeless. I chose the former.

nonmember avatar Michelle

My mother once told me that God works in mysterious ways. I realize that it is every woman's choice to raise her children as she sees fit, but I never understood why a woman would CHOOSE to go back to work so quickly after having a baby. I was blessed to be a SAHM for 2.5 years and wouldn't trade witnessing those "firsts" for anything. It really just comes down to priorities. It wasn't easy those first couple years with just one income but that was OUR choice and a choice I would make all over again. @Angie....you DO have a job...it is called raising children! Joanna, you are an inspiration...keep giving that beautiful baby of yours as much of your time as you can. She has been blessed with such an amazing mother!!!

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